ACC Preview: Dec. 29
Campbell (8-5) at NC State (8-4), 7:00 PM, the ACC.com
Maybe the loss to Syracuse did spark something in N.C. State. The Wolfpack have won two straight and held their opponents to 39.4% shooting and 24% from three after allowing their first ten opponents to shoot 43.7% (40.3% from three). Northeastern averaged just 0.79 points per possession, which was NC State’s best defensive performance of the year.
In their remaining non-conference games, the Wolfpack need to build on those defensive performances. Even against awful ACC teams, they can lose if they don’t play better defense than they have so far.
Campbell is a solid team that wants to play at a fast tempo and put up points. Unfortunately for the Fighting Camels, NC State is a more talented team that wants to play much the same way. This game very much plays into NC State’s hands.
Prediction: NC State 97, Campbell 77
Random: The Fighting Camels before used to be known as the Hornets. “Camels” allegedly came from a statement made to the school’s founder (James Campbell) after a fire destroyed three buildings in 1900: “Your name’s Campbell; then get a hump on you! We’ve got work to do.” Campbell thought the man had called him a camel, so it stuck.
Elon (7-4) at No. 5/6 North Carolina (11-2), 7:00 PM, ESPNU
North Carolina has been criticized for its lack of focus and effort against inferior opponents, and a lot of it has been well-deserved. Besides field-goal shooting (Carolina shot just 43.5% against an awful Nicholls State team), free-throw shooting has been an issue. Carolina is on pace for one of the worst free-throw shooting seasons in 101 years of Carolina basketball at the moment (a hair over 64%).
But interestingly enough, Tar Heel Fan points out that in big games, the free-throw shooting has been considerably better:
“In the four games that everyone had circled on Carolina’s preseason calendar (Mich. St., Wisconsin, UK, and Texas), UNC is a pretty solid 68 for 92 (73.9%) from the free-throw line. In the other 9 games, they are an awful 60.6% from the line. Whether it is an increase in concentration, getting the right players to the line, or a fluke is yet to be determined, but it is certainly something the bears watching.”
But Carolina has to start building good, consistent habits, or else their bad ones will come back to haunt them at the wrong time. This game will be a test of whether North Carolina can stay focused for an entire game against an inferior opponent. Elon is a solid team, and has some pretty good wins (South Carolina, Princeton), but North Carolina should win very convincingly.
Prediction: UNC 97, Elon 61
Random: Elon used to be known as known as the Fighting Christians, but in 2000, they decided to change the name. A 1923 fire destroyed much of the campus, so the Phoenix mascot came from the University rising from the ashes.
No. 24/23 Harvard (10-1) at Boston College (5-7), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
Boston College is riding a two-game winning streak and has averaged over a point per possession in each of its last two games. The Eagles shot a season-high 55% against Sacred Heart in a ten-point win on December 21st. Players’ performances have become less erratic and minutes are evening out. But the rotation has been so nuts this season that according to BC Interruption, six Eagles have joined Club Trillion this year (a stat line of one minute played and and nothing else: 1,000,000,000).
(Club Trillion is also a reference to this guy, Mark Titus, a walk-on at Ohio State who started his Club Trillion blog. He now writes for Grantland.)
Harvard has won three straight against BC. The Crimson beat the Eagles right after BC knocked off the Tar Heels in 2009, giving Harvard its first win over a ranked team in program history. BC might be riding some momentum, but to merely keep it competitive against Harvard might be a victory for the Eagles.
Prediction: Harvard 73, Boston College 60
Random: John Harvard is a bizarre mascot, and the rendition of the school’s Puritan founder used today is beyond creepy (see above). The mascot at times in history was “John the Orangeman“, a man that used to sell fruit to the students and allegedly may have even scrounged up alcohol for them during prohibition.
Yale (8-2) at Wake Forest (8-4), 7:00 PM
Wake Forest has won two straight over Gardner-Webb and UNC-Wilmington, but hardly in impressive fashion. They’ve been out-rebounded by nearly five boards per game this season and their defense has been bad (in points per possession allowed, only Maryland and NC State are worse). Still, their offense trails only Duke, Virginia and North Carolina in points per possession and the Deacons have the third-lowest loss of ball percentage in the league (behind Miami and North Carolina).
Yale is tough to evaluate – the Bulldogs losses came to Quinnipiac and a surging Seton Hall, but they have no high-caliber wins. They are riding a six-game winning streak. It wouldn’t shock me if Wake lost, but going out on a limb (and considering the game is in Winston-Salem), Wake should have just enough to win.
Prediction: Wake Forest 73, Yale 70
Random: Before “The Game” (Harvard vs. Yale in football) in 1908, Harvard head coach Percy Haughton allegedly strangled a live bulldog in the locker roomwith his bare hands to motivate his players. Harvard won, 4-0. Handsome Dan XVII is the current mascot:
Georgia Tech (7-5) at Fordham (5-6), 8:00 PM, CBS College Sports
Just when you think Georgia Tech is good enough to win a game against a mediocre non-conference opponent at home, they lose to Mercer by six. The Yellow Jackets are an excellent defensive team so far this year, and head coach Brian Gregory has pointed out on multiple occasions how pleased he is with the progress on that side of the ball.
But on offense, only Clemson, Boston College and Florida State score fewer points per possession. And Georgia Tech is turning it over at a 19.4% clip, 10th in the league. They only average 14.9 a game but in low-possession affairs (around 77 per game), that’s too many. In losses, Georgia Tech turns it over on over 20% of its possessions.
Fordham actually has a pretty good defense and wants to play a high-possession game. The Rams are 46th in tempo per Ken Pomeroy while the Yellow Jackets are 203rd. But Georgia Tech’s defense should win out here – barely – if the Yellow Jackets can value the basketball.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 62, Fordham 53
Random: This story shows why you don’t mess with mascots
Last Week: 16-2